Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Alina Gertsenshteyn-Community Board Meeting Activity #5

The community of Brooklyn’s District 9 consists of a population of about 100,000 individuals spread out in neighborhoods such of Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, and Wingate. As of the census from the year 2000: 11,733 (11.3%) are White, 79,466 (76.4%) are African-American, 819 (0.8%) Asian or Pacific Islander, 183 (0.2%) American Indian or Native Alaskan, 816 (0.8%) of some other race, 2,416 (2.3%) of two or more race, and 8,581 (8.2%) of Hispanic origins.
In addition 36.4% of the population uses some form of public assistance as of 2004, which increased to 20.8% in 2000. An example of public assistance is AFDC or Home Relief. Another example of financial support which applies to this town is Medicaid which is given to 36,338 residents. The majority of the housing consists of 1-2 family residential- 4,289 lots out of 6,994 total units.
Their community board has around 50 members who do not receive a salary for the work they do- so they are basically volunteers. To be politically correct, they are actually called government officials. This board works on issues such as these: parks, public safety, transportation, the environment, etc. This sort of breaks the ranking of officials by interest groups (the community board has different committees)…for instance the chairman of Parks and Recreation is Michael Certera and Gwen Carter is of housing.
The district meetings are held once a month and are open to the public. I attended my very first meeting on April 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm. The address is 890 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225. There were several committees going on at that time so I chose the Heath and Social Services meeting. There were over 100 people in the room and it looked pretty diverse- however, I did not see that many teenagers/early 20s individuals. People were chatting amongst themselves until an official called order and silence followed. She thanked everyone for coming and briefly mentioned what was going to be discussed that night: steps to restore Hospital budget cuts, introducing a couple of Black Veterans who will talk about some struggles, review Community Health Profiles for Central Brooklyn, and to plan the Kings County Hospital Fair.
I found the last issue particularly interesting because I have seen health fairs before in school but never outside of it. The Kings County Hospital Fair is yearly and takes place in June which seems to be the perfect month for an event like this because people are more active and social in the summertime. They mentioned that last year the Fair was on Clarkson Avenue between E.38th Street and Albany Avenue (I think outside and I think that is where it is every year but I did not quiet catch that). There will be health information booths among with concession tables, vendors in a flea market setup, different entertainment (i.e. spin the wheel games), and possibilities of enrollment in a health insurance. It seemed to me that most of the people at the meeting were regulars who have planned and attended the fair beforehand. A nurse from a women’s clinic went on stage to talk about how this year women’s health is going to take up a lot of attention in the Fair. She spoke about how she is going to use the entertainment aspect to attract younger girls (adolescents/teenagers) to different information tables because she sees young girls getting abortions every day. A few hands went up as she spoke and one person asked her whether they would incorporate graphic pictures of abortions/Stds. This followed by some debate…certain people said that they did not want children to see these pictures since it was such a public space. Others thought that pictures like those are educational and will get the point across better.
So the nurse was actually a community board member for many years so she had many coordinating duties. After the closing (this was the very last issue) there was a signup sheet and a website to volunteer for different things. For instance, the committee has a tentative number of how many vendors, booths, health insurances, etc they aim to get. They also needed volunteers to sign up to set up/clean. In addition, advertising for the event was going to be done by emailing/mailing residents on the mailing list and posting up flyers in public settings such as health centers and parks. I thought that this was a valuable experience because I was never really around people who demonstrate care for their community like this. I am used to busy New Yorkers who are always on the go and only care about themselves/money. What attracted me to the last issue is the volunteering aspect which is something that I have always been drawn to but I have a crazy busy schedule so it is hard for me to do it. This event had been such a positive and motivating experience. I want to participate in it and tell Hunter College students to go. Especially since I go to a college with a strong nursing/health program I am sure I can find many interested people who would love to contribute ; therefore, I will help the Fair by recruiting and volunteering myself (even though I do not know for sure what I can do myself). Also I think that when I am older and more stable in my lifestyle I will consider joining a board such as this one.

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